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Most object to proposed mountain ordinance

BYRON – Most of the approximately 20 people who turned out for Monday’s public hearing on a proposed Mountain District Ordinance appeared to be against it, and not because it would essentially ban the development of a wind farm project.

Instead, those who spoke were concerned with the possible affect it might have on logging, mining and future plans landowners might have.

The town will vote on the ordinance, which was written by an independent group of residents, at a special town meeting set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 30 at the Coos Canyon Schoolhouse.

No one from that group was at Monday’s hearing and none could be reached by telephone for comment.

Selectman Anne Simmons-Edmunds said the proposed ordinance had been turned down last year because of concern about restrictions on the construction of logging roads. That section was changed.

However, allowing mining, such as gravel mining or rock crushing, would not be allowed above 1,600 feet.

“This ought to be shot down right off the bat,” said one man. “This town exists on mining.”

Mark Armstrong, an employee of Wagner Forestry Management, said applying the restrictions as outlined in the four-page proposed ordinance at 1,600 feet was too low.

“LURC and others set the height at 2,700 feet,” he said.

Randy Richards said the only reason for the proposed ordinance was to restrict wind turbines.

“Let’s not hurt anyone else,” he said.

John Sutton, an employee of American Forestry Management, said about 10,000 acres owned by his company would be affected by the proposed ordinance.

The town believed it had outlawed wind turbine development about two years ago when an overwhelmingly majority of voters refused to increase the building structure height from 30 feet to a height that would accommodate wind turbines under the town’s building code, Selectman Lisa Gallant said.

Most turbines proposed in the Western Maine area are at least 300 tall.

But questions arose as to whether a building code height restriction could govern wind turbine development.

Dan McKay, an organizer of a group in Dixfield that is fighting the development of a wind farm, said his town is doing the same thing as the proposed Mountain District Ordinance in Byron is trying to do. He didn’t believe a building code restriction was strong enough.

“If you don’t put something in effect, you can’t stop windmills,” he said.

Although Geraldine Richards opposes wind farm development, she said the proposed ordinance was not yet complete.

Simmons-Edmunds said people should vote it down if they disagreed with it.

“But you will see it again,” she said.

She said the proposed ordinance was reviewed by the Androscoggin Valley Council of Governments, the town Planning Board, and accepted by the Board of Selectmen before it went to Monday’s public hearing.

It aims to prevent serious erosion, to preserve continued access to mountains, forests and waterways for leisure, recreation and sporting activities, and to preserve the town’s vistas.